How do we give thanks even when we don’t feel like it?
Christians are supposed to be thankful in every situation, which sounds nice on paper but is much harder to live out.
Still, not only should we give thanks in all circumstances, the Bible promises that it’s actually possible. Here are five simple suggestions that should help you and me give thanks, especially when we don’t feel like we have anything to be grateful for.
1. Give thanks because God is good, period.
The Lord is good, always and everywhere—it’s part of his nature. So, it’s always appropriate to give thanks to God just because of who he is.
- The Lord caused the sun to rise this morning, just because he is good.
- The Lord gave you life, just because he is good.
- The Lord created giraffes, just because he is good.
We cheer when the slugger hits a home run because home runs should be cheered.
We smile at babies because babies should be smiled at.
We are in awe when we stand at the Grand Canyon because the Grand Canyon is awesome in the full sense of the word.
And we give thanks to God just because of who God is. Period.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1.)
2. Give thanks that it’s not as bad as it could be.
In every circumstance, it could always be worse. This fact is brought home to me every time I visit the Children’s Hospital—I always leave thinking, “Compared to what some of these people are going through, I don’t have any” Whatever you think your problems are, it could be worse.
- If you have cancer, give thanks that it’s not a worse form of cancer.
- If you’re married but can’t have children, give thanks that you’re married.
- If you’re single and want to be married, give thanks that you’re not in a bad marriage.
Your circumstances may be bad, but praise God they aren’t worse.
3. Give thanks that out of a bad situation, something good can come.
I’m writing this on the plane after being at a family funeral all week. Death is not good, but the fact that a funeral brings family together is a good thing; it’s something to be thankful for. A good question to ask is, “What does this now make possible?”
- Your time in the hospital gives you time to pray that you didn’t have before.
- Your recovery allows you to experience the kindness of friends.
- Your financial struggles give you the opportunity to trust God for your daily bread.
- Your suffering makes you more empathetic toward others.
Many times what we think is a bad turn of events either makes something good possible, or brings about an unexpected blessing. Give thanks for that.
“What you intended for evil, God intended for good.” (Genesis 50:20—Joseph speaking to his brothers years after they sold him into slavery.)
4. Give thanks that your situation allows you to experience a small taste of Christ’s suffering.
Christ not only physically suffered, but he was also humiliated and betrayed. The New Testament writers continually tell us that our suffering gives us the opportunity to be more unified with Christ.
- If people are lying and saying ugly things about you, they did that to Jesus.
- If you are in acute physical pain, so was Jesus.
- If you feel totally alone, so did Jesus.
No one wants to suffer, but in suffering we have the opportunity to draw closer to Christ in ways that would not be possible if everything were okay. That’s something to be grateful for.
“For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well.” (Philippians 1:29.)
5. Give thanks that The End is good.
The Bible ends with a future promise that “everything sad will become untrue,” to quote Sam Gamgee. (See Revelation 21.) The Resurrection of Jesus is the sign of what God is going to do with all of history—he will “redeem all that he allows” in Jim Denison’s great phrase. So, even when your circumstances seem hopeless—and each of us is going to die, sooner or later—we Christians can give thanks that God is ultimately going make everything new. This fact enables Christians to give thanks even in the midst of death.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4.)
Giving thanks when you don’t feel like it is a mark of holiness—of spiritual maturity—and it is very difficult. But, as with other difficult things, we get better with practice, through the grace of God.
So, start small. And start right away.